CIMF review / Concert of supreme beauty and musical satisfaction

CIMF Concert 19: The Trout. At the Fitters Workshop, May 5. Reviewed by CLINTON WHITE


VIENNA became Beethoven’s home in 1792, when he was 22. He was to die there 34 years later, in 1827.

Vienna was Schubert’s birthplace and home for his entire, if short, life of 31 years. He died in 1828.

So, the two periods almost coincided. Beethoven studied with Haydn and Salieri, among others, and Schubert studied mainly with Salieri. Both Beethoven and Schubert are regarded as the main protagonists in the transition from the classical to the romantic periods of music.

It is possible that, to some extent at least, music influences likely were a two-way street between Schubert and Beethoven. Certainly the style of the time was reflected in both composers’ works, and, certainly each experienced performances of the other’s music.

Both were prolific composers – although Schubert’s output, including more than 600 songs, was about twice that of Beethoven – and there was a certain amount of mutual admiration, with each quoting the other’s writing from time to time.

Thus, a concert of music by Schubert and Beethoven seems inevitable, and so it was at this one.

The beautiful autumn afternoon seemed perfect for some delightful playing, delicate as a flower.

For Schubert’s D-major sonata for violin and piano, D384, written in 1816, Keiko Shichijo played the fortepiano, with Cecilia Bernardini playing her classical violin. It’s a simple, light, and airy work and was a perfect start to the delicacy of the playing to be heard in the rest of the program.

The forte piano keys don’t travel as far as those of a modern piano, and it’s not capable of the dynamics of a modern piano. But Shichijo’s feather-light touch drew wonderful expression and complemented perfectly Bernardini’s equally elegant bowing.

Next was Beethoven’s E-flat trio, op. 70 no. 2. Cellist, Daniel Yeadon, joined Bernardini and Shichijo for this work, written in 1808.

Much of the opening in this work seems without form, as if the music wants to escape into a resolution. Still, its four movements and seriousness put it quite a cut above the Schubert sonata, nonetheless requiring a delicate balance between the three instruments. The three musicians did that superbly, building the work to a thrilling climax.

Then it was back to Schubert and his famous quintet in A-major, D667 – “The Trout” – composed in 1819. For this piece our three musicians were joined by violist, James Wannan, and double bassist, Jacqueline Dossor. Of the five movements, the last three are the best known, with the fourth giving the work its nickname, it being a set of variations on Schubert’s song, “The Trout”, from 1817.

Like the other works on the program, “The Trout” is light and bright. Once again, these superb musicians achieved wonderful, delicate textures, sharing around the melodies (and the variations in the fourth movement), with the remainder of the ensemble providing polished balance. Tempi were just right, giving the piece motion, and the beautiful expression gave it colour and life.

Some might say this was a pleasant Saturday afternoon concert, but that cruelly understates the superb musicianship of these young players, who gave us a performance of supreme beauty and musical satisfaction.

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